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Section 280: Pressure to breach the rules / fundamental principles

Introduction

280.1           Members are required to comply with the rules and fundamental principles and apply the conceptual framework set out in Section 120 to identify, evaluate and address threats.

280.2           Pressure exerted on, or by, a member might create an intimidation or other threat to compliance with one or more of the fundamental principles or the rules, particularly the “Integrity and Objectivity Rule”. This section sets out specific requirements and application material relevant to applying the conceptual framework in such circumstances.

Requirements and Application Material

General

R280.3         A member shall not:

(a)   Allow pressure from others to result in a breach of compliance with the rules, in particularly the “Integrity or Objectivity Rule”, or the fundamental principles; or

(b)   Place pressure on others that the member knows, or has reason to believe, would result in the other individuals breaching the rules or the fundamental principles.

280.3 A1      A member may face pressure that could create threats to compliance with the rules, in particularly the “Integrity and Objectivity Rule”, and the fundamental principles, for example an undue influence (intimidation) threat, when undertaking professional services. Pressure might be explicit or implicit and might come from:

  • Within the employing organisation, for example, from a colleague or superior.
  • An external individual or organisation such as a vendor, customer, or lender.
  • Internal or external targets and expectations.

280.3 A2      Examples of pressure that might result in threats to compliance with the “Integrity and Objectivity Rule” and the fundamental principles include:

  • Pressure related to conflicts of interest:
    • Pressure from a family relative bidding to act as a vendor to the member’s employing organisation to select that vendor over another prospective vendor.

See also Section 220, Conflicts of Interest.

  • Pressure to influence preparation or presentation of information:
    • Pressure to report misleading financial results to meet investor, analyst, or lender expectations.
    • Pressure from elected officials on public sector / government accountants to misrepresent programs or projects to voters.
    • Pressure from colleagues to misstate income, expenditure, or rates of return to bias decision-making on capital projects and acquisitions.
    • Pressure from superiors to approve or process expenditures that are not legitimate business expenses.
    • Pressure to suppress internal audit reports containing adverse findings.

See also Section 240, Preparation and Presentation of Information.

  • Pressure to act without sufficient competence, expertise, or due care:
    • Pressure from superiors to inappropriately reduce the extent of work performed.
    • Pressure from superiors to perform a task without sufficient skills or training or within unrealistic deadlines.

See also Section 260, General Standards / Professional Competence and Due Care.

  • Pressure related to financial interests:
    • Pressure from superiors, colleagues, or others, for example, those who might benefit from participation in compensation or incentive arrangements to manipulate performance indicators.
  • Pressure related to inducements:
    • Pressure from others, either internal or external to the employing organisation, to offer inducements to influence inappropriately the judgment or decision-making process of an individual or organisation.
    • Pressure from colleagues to accept a bribe or other inducement, for example to accept inappropriate gifts or entertainment from potential vendors in a bidding process.

See also Section 230, Inducements, Including Gifts and Hospitality.

280.3 A3      Factors that are relevant in evaluating the level of threats created by pressure include:

  • The intent of the individual who is exerting the pressure and the nature and extent of the pressure.
  • The application of laws, regulations, and professional standards to the circumstances.
  • The culture and leadership of the employing organisation including the extent to which they reflect or emphasise the importance of ethical behaviour and the expectation that employees will act ethically. For example, a corporate culture that tolerates unethical behaviour might increase the likelihood that the pressure would result in a breach of the rules or threat to compliance with the fundamental principles.
  • Policies and procedures, if any, that the employing organisation has established, such as ethics or human resources policies that address pressure.

280.3 A4      Discussing the circumstances creating the pressure and consulting with others about those circumstances might assist the member to evaluate the level of the threat. Such discussion and consultation, which requires being alert to the “Acts Discreditable Rule” (AICPA) and the fundamental principle of confidentiality (CIMA), might include:

  • Discussing the matter with the individual who is exerting the pressure to seek to resolve it.
  • Discussing the matter with the member’s superior, if the superior is not the individual exerting the pressure.
  • Escalating the matter within the employing organisation, including when appropriate, explaining any consequential risks to the organisation, for example with:
    • Higher levels of management.
    • Internal or external auditors.
    • Those charged with governance.
  • Disclosing the matter in line with the employing organisation’s policies, including ethics and whistleblowing policies, using any established mechanism, such as a confidential ethics hotline.
  • Consulting with:
    • A colleague, superior, human resources personnel, or another member;
    • Relevant professional or regulatory bodies or industry associations; or
    • Legal Counsel.

280.3 A5      An example of an action that might eliminate threats created by pressure is the member’s request for a restructure of, or segregation of, certain responsibilities and duties so that the member is no longer involved with the individual or entity exerting the pressure.

Documentation

280.4 A1      The member is encouraged to document:

  • The facts.
    • The communications and parties with whom these matters were discussed.
    • The courses of action considered.
    • How the matter was addressed.